Southeastern Ohio farming community suffers educational crisis

WORKERS’ CORRESPONDENCE

Guernsey County in southeastern Ohio is having serious problems with the educational budget. Education is under fire by the Bush administration on a national level and by the administration of Republican Gov. Bob Taft on a state level. The state is asking teachers and administrators to resort to fundraisers and high-ticket prices for sports games in order to fund activities. Teachers have to buy many of their own job materials because of the loss of state subsidization. A health teacher at Cambridge High School was once noted telling her students to use the cheap construction paper because her department could no longer spring for nicer-looking and slightly more expensive poster boards for a class project.

East Guernsey school district has been asked to bear budget cuts that would all but eliminate sports and many extra-curricular activities, bringing educational standards to an even lower level. East Guernsey suffers due to its large farming-based community. Since schools rely on land taxes, the district is already underfunded because of low land values and hence, low taxes, not to mention the burden of family farmers forced to compete with factory farms in other parts of the state and nation.

Coming before the East Guernsey Board of Education, a concerned parent declared that the state has no ethics and demanded the East Guernsey district do what it can to preserve sports and such. In order to do so, the district would have to enter into deficit spending. State law prohibits such spending under threat of state seizure and forced budget balancing of the school district’s assets. Caught in a quagmire, East Guernsey is faced with killing its sports sector or resisting and being dominated by the state administration anyway.

With trillions of dollars being spent on the war in Iraq, parents living with public school-attending children should be very concerned about the future of education in the nation. With the decline of funding and decent schooling, racism has grown considerably in the tri-county area. A report of a fight between a young Black girl with her white friend and another young white girl over a racial epithet used by the latter in nearby Muskingum County are cause for concern. Similar events occur in Cambridge City and in nearby Harrison County, where stories of discrimination against high school children with Black or Jewish roots by white non-Jewish students are also prevalent. There is a strong connection between economics and racism, evidenced by this growing and troubling situation. When will America start to see it, and work to change it?

Martin Droll (marx2martin@aol.com) is a student activist in Cambridge, Ohio.